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Precision Long Range 2 with Match Grade Precision

Chris Upchurch

Last weekend I took the Precision Long Range 2 class from Match Grade Precision, taught by Matt Howard and Chris Long. Back in May, I took Precision Long Range 1 class; I was impressed enough with the class and the instructors that I immediately signed up for the follow-on course.

Unlike the LR1 class, which was up in northern Kansas, this class was at a range south of Wichita. Since it was about 45 minutes from my house, I could sleep in my own bed and drive down there for the class each day.

Gear

My primary rifle for this class was my .223 DMR. It’s a JP Rifles upper on a lower I put together myself. I’ve got a US Optics B-10 1.8-10x scope on it. I’m running an Atlas bipod and an AAC Mini4 suppressor. I’m running hand loaded ammo with Sierra Match King 77 grain bullets. I used this same gun at the LR1 class, and it ran well there.

The one change I made to this rifle since the previous class was to swap out the trigger. I took out the Rock River NM 2-stage trigger and replaced it with a JP Rifles Modular Trigger. It’s still a duty weight trigger, so it’s not super light, but it has a very crisp single stage trigger pull. This is the first time I’ve run a single stage trigger, and I’m still getting used to it, but I like it so far.

Unlike the LR1 class, which had steel out to a mile, the range at this class only goes out to about 900 yards. This meant that almost everything would be within reach of my .223, so I didn’t bring a heavier rifle to supplement the AR.

The rest of the class were running bolt guns, with both Ruger and Tikka rifles in represented. Mostly 6.5 Creedmoor, but one was chambered in 6.5x47mm Lapua.

I also brought out my Leupold Mark 4 spotting scope with the Horus mil-grid reticle.

Saturday

I loaded up the car and headed out, making it out to the range at 8:55. All of my fellow students in this course had also been in the LR1 class I took back in May. Some of the other students had arrived early to check their zeroes (I was reasonably confident in mine from LR1).

Matt started the class out with a brief overview of the material that we’d be covering. He made very clear that the two major emphasis areas for this class would be wind reading and ranging using the reticle in your optic. Matt followed this up with a quick medical brief and emphasized that he wanted our rifle’s bolts open and a chamber flag inserted whenever we weren’t on the gun. He talked a bit more about the course outline, then finished off the introductory briefing by going over the four rules of gun safety.

With that, we jumped right into the class material itself. Matt talked a bit about what we can look at to judge wind direction and velocity. He pointed out the motion of the tops of the trees, the movement of the grass downrange, flags back at the firing line, etc.

Chris talked a bit about wind direction. For shooting purposes, we’re only concerned about the lateral component of the wind. We can ignore any wind blowing towards us or away from us. At that time the wind was blowing fairly strongly from behind us, from about the 5 o’clock direction. This is a half-value wind (only half of the overall wind speed contributes to pushing the bullet off to the left). If it were coming from 4:30, about 70% of the wind speed would be pushing the bullet off course. At 4 o’clock, 90% of the wind is pushing the bullet sideways, and with a wind coming directly from the side (3:00) the full value of the wind would be pushing the bullet to the side. So after establishing your wind speed, the next step is to account for the direction and translate that into your wind value.

Of course, the real complication is that the wind speed is seldom the same everywhere along the bullet’s flight path. This is something we would have to deal with in spades today. The shooting lane was flanked on the right side by a line of tall, dense trees. These cause the wind to swirl and roll quite dramatically. They also meant that wind conditions on the right side of the range could be entirely different from wind conditions on the left. Matt mentioned that a good way to visualize this was to imagine a sheet of water flowing across the ground rather than air. Where would it flow? Where would it swirl and eddy?

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The primary shooting positions on this range were up on a big platform built about 12 feet off the ground. The added elevation gave us a good vantage point and helped us get a line of sight to all of the steel set out downrange. I toted my gear up there. In contrast to LR1 where we started with the closest targets we Matt had us start out at 500 yards, followed quickly by some shooting out at 835 yards (the furthest this range goes). I got a first round hit at 500 and was able to get on target after a few shots at 835 (which is pushing it for a .223).

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We had strong winds from about the 5:30, which you would think would lead to a small left to right value, but thanks to that line of trees wind conditions were much more confused. At closer distances, you were holding to the right, as you would expect, but further out you often actually had to hold left (depending on how strongly the wind was blowing and how it was being affected by the trees). We engaged some targets at various distances to see these effects.

After everyone had done a bit of shooting, we headed back down to the whiteboard where Matt and Chris talked us through determining range with a mil reticle (everyone in the class was running optics with reticles graduated in angular mils). To determine the range, take the size of the object in inches and multiply by 27.77, then divide by the apparent size of the target in mils in the reticle to get the distance in yards.

In addition to the ranging formulas, Matt also gave us the dimensions for most of the targets out on the range. For all of them he gave us height and width, and for some of the torso targets, he also gave us the height from the base of the target to the shoulder. Being able to measure multiple dimensions is essential both because you may not be able to see the whole target, and may only have one of these dimensions available to measure and because measuring range using both height and width allows you to cross check your answers.

Something Matt suggested that I hadn’t heard in previous classes was when you were recording the size of objects to go ahead and precalculate your constant for each dimension (size in inches times 27.77) so that will save you a step in the field.

We headed back upstairs and got to work ranging the targets. This is a known distance range, with targets every hundred yards from 200 to 800 (plus some more up on the berm at 835) so we already knew how far each target was. If the value you got from measuring the target in mils and calculating the range didn’t match the known distance, you knew you messed up somewhere.

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This was a self-paced, self-directed exercise, so I started with the 200-yard target and worked my way out. For each target I did the math, then shot the target (exercising my wind reading skills while I was at it). I’d done some mil ranging in the past, so this was mostly a matter of knocking the rust off. Some of the students had more of a challenge, but everyone was doing reasonably well after an hour or so.

One thing I did struggle a bit with is the relatively chunky reticle in my rifle scope. The relatively thick stadia lines made getting the base or side of the target exactly matched up with the center of the line a bit difficult. Rather than ranging using my central crosshair I ended up using the first hash mark because that way I could line it up halfway over the target and make sure I was bisecting the line with the base of the target.

The other challenge I had was the fact that the smallest increment this scope has is 0.5 mils. I could guesstimate down to about a tenth of a mil, which seems pretty precise, but when you get out to long range a 0.1 mil can make a pretty big difference. For instance, for one of the more distant targets, using my optic I had a hard time deciding whether it was 1 mil high (which would put it at 833 yards) or 1.1 mils (757 yards). Since this was a known distance range, it was evident that neither of these was right on the money (it was an 800-yard target). However, the difference between 757 and 833 yards is significant. I’d have to dial in 2 more mils of drop to shoot at 833 than I would at 757, which is considerably more than the height of the target. Making a ranging mistake like this would probably mean a miss.

At this point, I broke out my spotting scope. Not only is it 40 power rather than the 10 power of my rifle scope, it also has a grid of mil markers 0.2 mils apart. With this, I found I was able to measure much more precisely, down to 0.05 mil or better.

Wind conditions were also challenging, and not just the shooting. The wind was strong enough up on the platform that it was blowing around my spotting scope, and the tripod mounted binoculars. I ended up lowering my tripod down to it's lowest height where it was much steadier and doing my ranging from prone.

Lunch arrived, provided by Match Grade Precision. Tacos, corn on the cob, rice, and some excellent brownies. They definitely feed you well in these classes.

After lunch, we headed back up to do some more mil ranging and shooting. Before too long the clouds that had been building to the south of us all day finally pushed far enough north to drop some rain on us. We grabbed our gear and moved down to the shooting benches underneath the platform. This introduced some new challenges: even at bench height, vegetation and micro terrain partially masked some of the farther targets (many would have been completely invisible in prone). This meant you sometimes only had the width to measure for ranging and only part of the target available to aim at.

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I figured that the mil ranging was a skill that I needed more practice on than shooting, so I didn’t put a whole lot of rounds downrange for the first part of the afternoon. Instead, I ranged every available target, doing both height and width if possible. Using the reticle in the spotting scope, I found that when I could measure both the height and width of the targets, they usually agreed with each other within about 5-10 yards, and were often within 10 yards of the known distance.

One target both the student next to me and I had trouble with was a diamond target out at 800 yards. Even measuring very carefully we were both getting ranges around 750. It was hard to judge precisely where the tips of the diamond ended even with a 40 power spotting scope. Eventually, I had the bright idea to roll my spotting scope over at a 45-degree angle and measure from one side to the other rather than tip to tip (treating it as if it were a square rather than a diamond). This produced a much more accurate value. A good lesson to measure between clearly defined points if you can.

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Having ranged everything I could see that we knew the dimensions of, I switched back to my rifle to do some more shooting. While doing this, I ran into another issue with micro terrain. I was shooting at a target about 500 yards out. Based on the way the grass I could see in the foreground was blowing I called a moderate right to left wind and held on the right edge of the target.

Chris was spotting for me, and when I sent my shot, he said I was off the right side of the target and called I correction of 1 mil left. I made the correction and got the hit. I was a bit confused. It was evident from where my first round went that I’d completely misread the wind. I thought it was blowing right to left, yet my round ended up to the right of my aiming point. I got up and took a peek through the tripod mounted binoculars the Chris was using. Through those, I could see that the grass closer to the target was blowing the opposite direction, indicating a left to right wind. That was what blew my first shot off targets. The micro terrain meant that a two foot difference in elevation revealed an entirely different picture of what the wind was doing.

After everyone had their fill of ranging and shooting, we packed up and headed out.

Sunday

I rolled up to the range about 8:45. One of the other students was zeroing a new scope (after class the previous day he swapped his Vortex Viper PST for a newly bought Razor HD Gen II). Once he finished, we moved over to the unknown distance range.

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Once the last student arrived, we got started with a big unknown distance shooting exercise. This exercise is the big centerpiece of the class. Matt gave us dimensions for five targets at unknown distances, and we had 30 minutes to range the targets using the reticles in our optics. After ranging all the targets, we each engaged them in turn, with only three rounds per target. No laser rangefinders, Kestrels, or ballistic software allowed (Matt had suggested that we work up written dope sheets the previous afternoon).

I started by multiplying all of the target dimensions by 27.77 to get a constant for each of them. That way I had one step out of the way and only needed to divide this by the target dimension in mils to get the range.

Based on my experience on Day 1, I did all my mil ranging for the exercise using the finer reticle and higher magnification of my spotting scope. For four of the five targets, I was able to range them using both their height and width. This gave me two different dimensions to cross check against each other. For the closest target, the ranges I got measuring the height and width were within three yards of each other. On the most distant target, they were within 12 yards. However, for two of the targets, the ranges measured by height were 75-80 yards closer than the distance measured by width. Based on my experience the previous day, I trusted the distance measured by height a bit more than the one measured by width, so that’s what I went with.

Tall grass obscured the lower part of one target, making it impossible to measure its height. Even if I ran my sitting height tripod up to its maximum height, it wasn’t tall enough to see the base of the target (I tried balancing my tripod on top of a stump, but couldn’t get it steady enough to range with). So I could only do my ranging based on the target’s width. This was the target I was most uncertain about the range on. It was also the one where there was the most variation among the different students (despite this being set up as a competition, we all cooperated on the ranging, talking about what mil dimensions we measured the targets at and what distances we calculated).

Having used all of our available 30 minutes, we loaded up our rifles and each student engaged every target in turn. You had three rounds, so if you missed with the first one and could either self-spot or one of the other students spotted for you, you could make a correction and get your second (or third) round on target.

We did quite a bit of missing as it turns out. By the time we got to shooting the wind was blowing fairly strongly, about 15-20 mph at the firing line from about 5 o’clock. However, a row of trees off to the right perpendicular to our line of fire partially screened the targets from the wind. This meant that the first part of the bullet’s flight path was affected strongly by the wind, the latter part of its flight much less so. That said, the winds were more consistent across the course than on the range where we'd shot the previous day. The row of trees was far enough off that the winds weren’t nearly as switchy and confusing as they’d been the day before.

Some of the more distant targets were very hard to spot your shots on as well; especially one that was placed out in the middle of some tall grass with no berm behind it. The grass just absorbed any splash, making it very difficult to figure out where your shot went.

I went 2 for 3 on the closest target. The second target was the partially obscured one that I’d had trouble ranging. My first shot was short, so I added some elevation. The second shot was short as well so I held another mil of elevation before firing the third shot and got the hit. As I was engaging the third target, the winds picked up a bit, and I didn’t end up with any hits. The fourth target was the one in the middle of the field which was very difficult to spot your shots on. I took my best guess for the wind, fired, and missed. With no feedback about where I missed I swung one target width to the left and fired (no joy), then tried one target width to the right and managed to get a hit on the right edge of the plate. The last target was out beyond 900 yards, which is really beyond the effective range of the .223 (and it’s also almost impossible to spot splashes from these little bullets out at that distance). I took my three shots but wasn’t rewarded with any hits. Despite only getting four hits out of fifteen tries, I tied for first place.

After we shot each target, Matt gave us the actual range. On the troublesome one where I could only measure the width, I was off by over 75 yards. For all of the others, I was pretty close, with 35 yards of the correct distance. So ranging really wasn’t the problem. Like I said, the wind conditions were pretty challenging.

It is worth noting that after getting my hit on the second (poorly ranged) target I was able to work backward from the amount I held and come out right on the money with the correct distance. This gives me confidence in the accuracy of my scope's reticle and adjustments.

After we finished the exercise, we had the chance for some more free shooting using the array of unknown distance targets on this range. I worked to re-engage some of the targets that I’d missed, especially one where I’d had the wrong range. With a little bit of work (and some good spotting from Matt and Chris) I was able to get on steel on everything except the most distant target. I also did some shooting at some of the other targets out on the range as well (there were another dozen or so that we hadn’t even used for the exercise).

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During a break, Matt talked about using a crosshair reticle as a “poor man’s Horus.” Basically, you dial your dope for moderately long distance (he suggested 500 yards). At closer distances, you hold under while at longer distances you go back to holding over. Essentially you subtract the 500-yard dope that you dialed from your actual dope at each distance, treating any negative numbers as hold-under rather than holdover. Obviously, this requires a scope with mil markings on the part of the crosshair above the center; you can’t do it with a T-shaped reticle.

I played around with this some after lunch (again, a nice meal furnished by Match Grade precision: today sandwiches, pasta salad, potato salad, and some really excellent apple crisp). My optic has 4 mils of has marks above the crosshair, and my 500-yard dope was 3.5 mils, so that part of it worked well. The one issue that cropped up was that it the has marks are at 0.5 mil increments and all the targets on this range closer than 500 yards were all quite small (either reduced size torsos or small plates). The half-mil increments were a bit coarse for such small targets. This would have worked a bit better for quick shooting at full sized torsos (or with a scope with 0.2 mil gradations).

Despite the dearth of closer torso targets, the range did have some neat stuff to shoot at. They even had a pickup truck out at about 400 yards with swinging steel targets inside the truck. I managed to get hits on a head-sized steel target in the back of the crew cab (but I definitely put some additional holes in the truck body getting on target).

After everyone had their fill of shooting, Matt handed out the certificates, and we broke for the day.

Conclusions

For me, the process of getting comfortable with mil ranging has been very gradual. While I was first introduced to it back in 2011, I didn’t really feel that I truly had a grasp on it until Eric Pfleger’s Longrifle class in 2015. Not only did this class knock the rust off of my mil reading skills, the work we did on Saturday and especially the unknown distance exercise on Sunday really gave me confidence that I can make this work in a field situation.

In contrast to my newfound confidence in my mil ranging skills, this class reinforced that I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to wind reading. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a tremendous amount. However, reading wind is more of an art than a science, and acquiring a good grasp on that art will require a lot more practice. As my late friend John Chambers was fond of saying, “The best way to learn to shoot in the wind is to shoot in the wind.”

This class offered some challenging wind conditions, with a good deal of diversity in exactly how the wind was affecting your bullets between the two days. That said, the wind direction and the direction of shooting remained very consistent over the two days. The variation was mostly due to the vegetation and difference in wind speed over the course of the class.

On that score, one thing Matt mentioned that caught my interest was a description of the ranges available up at Ringneck Ranch in northern Kansas. There they have a set of three different ranges covering about 270-degree circle. You can switch relatively quickly between shooting north, east, and south, getting big variations in wind direction relative to your shooting. He said he was trying to schedule this class at that facility sometime next year. That would definitely make it worthwhile to take the class again.

My rifle ran well. Aside from the stuff out at 900+ yards that was really beyond the .223’s effective range, I was generally able to get solid, repeatable hits. However, I definitely felt the wind more than the other students shooting 6.5mm rifles. Even running the heavy for the caliber 77 grainers the strong winds really tossed the little bullets around.

The JP modular trigger was quite nice. No detectable creep, just gradually increase the pressure and, suddenly, the trigger breaks and the gun goes off. I may have to buy another one of these and see how I like it in one of my fighting rifles.

The US Optics B-10 scope worked well. One of the reasons I switched to this optic from the Leupold Mark 6 1-6x that I had on this rifle was to get an optic better suited to precision shooting. I think the B-10 fits the bill. The GAP reticle is finer than the Leupold, while still being thick enough to work at 1.8x magnification. The crosshair was fine enough to effectively engage everything I shot at during this course (which included smaller targets out to about 500 and full-size torso targets out to 900).

That said, the GAP reticle isn’t the best suited for ranging targets. While I was able to make it work reasonably well, the finer 0.2 mil grid in my spotting scope was definitely better in that role. The B-10 is also really set up to dial elevation and hold for wind. I was able to tack on a mil and a half to what I’d dialed when shooting at the target that was further away than I’d thought during the UD exercise, but when you get much further from the horizontal crosshair than that it becomes a bit of a guessing game. Overall, I’m happy with this optic. It fits the intended role of this rifle well.

While all but the furthest targets on this range were within the effective reach of my .223 (at least when I read the wind correctly), I was still a bit jealous of the reach and wind-bucking abilities of the other students’ 6.5s. My task for the next few weeks is to get some ammo loaded up for my new Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5mm.

I’d recommend Precision Long Range 2 to anyone who wants to get better at reading the wind and ranging targets using a mil reticle. All of the Match Grade Precision classes I’ve taken so far have been very good. Good enough that I’ll be going back to Spearpoint Ranch in September and taking their LR1 class a second time to get to know my new Ruger.

Close Quarter Battle: The Study

Chris Upchurch

I recently had a chance to take Close Quarter Battle: The Study from Roger Phillips and “Ninpo Student.”

I’d taken a CQB class from Roger several years ago up in Las Vegas. He does a great job presenting the material and making the lessons very understandable and applicable for the armed citizen.

Ninpo Student has extensive military experience doing CQB; he’s been in a lot of gunfights over in the sandbox. This experience gives him a wealth of knowledge when it comes to CQB.

I actually first met Ninpo as a fellow student in that CQB class with Roger several years ago. It really says something about him that, despite his vast experience, he was attending a course from a civilian instructor in his area of expertise. That sort of thing is a big part of why I have such great respect for him.

Roger set this course up with both a 3-day and 2-day option. The three-day version had a live fire day on Friday at a local range, with non-shooting CQB instruction on Saturday and Sunday at a local manufacturing facility that was kind enough to host the class. The two-day version just included the non-shooting days. While I would have loved to do the shooting portion as well, I also wanted to minimize the use of my vacation days, so I went for the two-day version.

Gear

As a non-shooting class, this wasn’t nearly as gear-heavy as a lot of courses. I brought a rubber gun (one of the orange Blackhawk Glock trainers) and an extra holster for it.

Since Ninpo would be teaching some long gun stuff, I also wanted to bring a rifle. I actually went through quite a debate about what to bring. I don’t have an AR blue gun so it would have to be a real rifle. However, I was reluctant to consign an expensive rifle, optic, suppressor, and other accessories to the tender mercies of the TSA and airline baggage handlers, especially when I wasn’t even going to do any live fire with it.

In the end, I ended up slapping an Aimpoint T-1 on my simplest (and cheapest) SBR, but foregoing a suppressor or any other accessories. I did get an inexpensive Burris picatinny rail riser so that the T-1 would better match the height of the Leupold in a tall mount on my main fighting rifle.

Given that this rifle was basically going to be used as a glorified blue gun, I almost didn’t bother zeroing the optic or bringing any ammo for it. However, I found myself incapable of bringing a self-defense tool on a trip without setting it up for proper use. So I did a quick zero at the range last week and brought along 90 rounds of ammo for it.

I had intended to bring a Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2 that I’ve got set up on a QD mount and move between rifles that don’t have a permanent light setup. Unfortunately, that didn’t make it on to my packing list. Thankfully, Cabela’s is just a few miles from the hotel where I’m staying, so I was able to pick up an identical light and a Magpul offset mount for it.

Friday

I flew out to Arizona on Friday, arriving in the early afternoon. I lived in Phoenix for over 20 years, so the familiar furnace-blast of heat when I walked out the door at Sky Harbor Airport brought back memories.

I made a WalMart run and spent a bit of time looking around at Cabela’s before checking in to my hotel. As I was unloading my stuff, I ran into Roger in the hall and we chatted for a bit. He’d finished up the live-fire day and was just getting back from the range.

That evening I had a chance to have dinner with my cousin and his wife (they live in the Phoenix area). We had some excellent sushi and had a good time catching up after not having seen each other for a while.

Saturday

I ran into Roger and his wife again in the hotel’s breakfast room, and we had a chance to talk a bit as we ate.

The venue for the class was just a few miles down the road. It’s a manufacturing facility divided between some office space and a factory floor-type area. The office space had individual offices around the outer walls with cubicles in the middle. They were doing a production run on Saturday, so the manufacturing area was off limits to us.

Everyone arrived in pretty short order at the 8 o’clock start time. Many of the students in the class were people I’d trained with before in various classes out in Arizona and Nevada. It was great to train with them again.

We got started by signing the usual waivers. Roger and Ninpo talked through the procedures we would be using to ensure there would be no live weapons in the training environment. Most of the students had handgun replicas (either airsoft or rubber guns like the one I’d brought). For those that didn’t, we flagged the chambers using some vinyl tape. To disable long guns we pulled the bolt carrier group, leaving the gun in an unfireable condition.

All of our carry guns were unloaded and stored in a separate room, along with any knives or other weapons. At the start of the day and after people came back from lunch, Roger and Ninpo searched everyone and checked their weapons to make sure there were no live guns. Both of them emphasized the long history of incidents where people had been shot or unintentionally shot others due carelessly violating the separation between the training environment and the carry environment. This happens when either someone brings an operational weapon into what’s supposed to be a dry training environment or when they try to do one more training iteration after gearing up for carry.

Roger and Ninpo introduced themselves and talked a bit about their backgrounds and experience. Ninpo emphasized that he wanted us to “keep this stuff off the internet” so I will be circumspect. He served in a role where he trained extensively in CQB work and has multiple combat deployments under his belt where he spent most of his time hitting targets and clearing buildings. This wealth of real-world experience makes him an incredibly good instructor for a class like this.

He’s now in civilian life, and he mentioned that his current boss was giving him some static about outside work (like this class), which is why I’m using his online nome de plume rather than his name in this write-up.

One of the things that Ninpo and Roger emphasized was the difference between theory and practice. Ninpo talked about how much the CQB tactics of the military’s high-level units have changed since 9-11 because some of the pre-war theories did not match up with the conditions (and missions) that they encountered on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are hard-won lessons that a lot of guys paid for with their lives.

Roger talked about the four potential missions that a civilian might be trying to accomplish in CQB: barricade in position, search and clear, hunting and engaging, and evade and escape.

Barricade in position is the simplest and easiest to execute. The classic scenario for this is if you hear someone breaking into your house and there isn’t anyone elsewhere in the house that you need to go and protect. You can stay where you are, call 911, and be ready to defend yourself if the intruder comes to you. “Barricade in position” is the politically correct term for this, but the reality is that you’re setting up an ambush. While this is a great situation to be in if you can manage it, it’s not always possible.

For instance, what if you’re not sure there’s been a break-in? You may hear a noise, but it’s not clear that it’s an intruder. If you call 911 every time you hear something in the middle of the night, pretty soon you’re going to be the boy who called wolf. So, sometimes you have to go check things out. There’s no time pressure, you can take as long as you need to search and clear the house, but you need to verify whether or not there’s an intruder (for your own peace of mind if nothing else).

Another situation where barricading in place isn’t possible is if you hear an intruder in your home when there are other people you need to protect elsewhere in the house. If your kids or other loved ones are in danger, you’re not going to just sit there in a defensive position. Hunting and engaging relies on many of the same techniques as search and clear, but at a much faster pace. This is a tradeoff: it’s much more dangerous, but it gets you to the person you need to protect much faster.

Of course, not every CQB situation is a “bump in the night” scenario. You may be caught in an active shooter or similar situation where your objective is to get out. Evade and escape relies on the same fundamentals as search and clear and hunting and engaging, but the application is a bit different.

Roger talked a bit about the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and the reactionary curve. A lot of the point shooting material that Roger is known for teaching are skills for situations where an opponent has the drop on you, and you’re behind the reactionary curve. This is a very sub-optimal situation and responding to it effectively requires some compromises. CQB is a much more proactive environment (though there may be moments when you’re in a reactive situation). A big emphasis in this class was in making sure we got away from those reactive skills and used a proactive skillset optimized for accurate, offensive shooting.

The most likely place an armed citizen will have to utilize these skills is in their own home. One advantage here is that we can “prepare the battlefield” to make things easier for us if we have to clear our own house. We talked some about stuff like -putting up mirrors to make it easier to clear difficult locations, using night lights to backlight someone approaching your bedroom, and keeping certain doors closed to make clearing problems easier.

Ninpo emphasized the need to ask yourself, “Is there anything in this room worth dying for?” If your kid is in that room screaming bloody murder, then yes, that’s worth risking your life for. But if that’s not the case, once you’ve verified that there is a threat in that room, deciding not to push through that door and take on that adversary is a perfectly valid decision. In the civilian context, that might mean pulling back to a safer location and dialing 911. On the military side, if they encountered heavy opposition and didn’t have a compelling reason to fight it out (hostages to rescue, etc.), they’d often pull back and bomb the building.

Ninpo also talked a bit about speed (something that would come up repeatedly throughout the class). There’s a tendency to do everything at “hostage rescue” speed. But if you don’t have hostages to rush and save, there’s no reason to go that fast. He said a lot of guys died early on in Iraq and Afghanistan because of this. As he’s fond of putting it, “I can’t fight faster than I can process the environment.” If you move too quickly, you’re in danger of “outrunning your headlights.”

As an aside, Ninpo noted that while we tend to conflate CQB with “fighting in a structure,” technically the military regards any fight at ranges of less than 50 meters as CQB. A lot of outdoor fights (especially in terrain that restricts visibility like jungle or tight urban areas outside of buildings) take place at under 50 meters. On the flip side, fights inside structures can sometimes involve considerably greater distances. He once used a laser rangefinder to measure one of the main aisles at WalMart at 227 meters (he did this to make a point to a SWAT team he was helping train about the need for a zero that could accommodate longer shots). His preferred term for what we’re doing in this class is Fighting In Someones’ House or FISHing.

While some folks had a chance to do live fire on Friday others in the class (including me) had not, so Roger and Ninpo did some review. Roger talked through the locked wrist handgun grip. It’s been discussed quite a bit on Paragon Pride, so I won’t repeat it here. However, there was one element that was new to me (I gather this was something Ninpo introduced Roger to on Friday): torquing the hands together like you’re trying to pinch the top of the frame. Basically, you apply counterclockwise pressure with your right hand and clockwise pressure with your left hand, trapping the gun between them. This has the effect of rotating your elbows out. I’ve heard the debate between “elbows out” and “elbows down” when shooting isosceles before, but the way Ninpo described it, the elbow position is a side effect of applying this pressure to the top of the frame.

Ninpo demonstrated his preferred carbine stance: squared up to the target, stock mounted under the dominant eye, aggressive forward lean with the strong side leg back to direct recoil energy into the ground. As with the handgun grip, there’s an excellent thread on Paragon Pride describing this in a lot more detail. One thing Ninpo emphasized for this class is that your foot position may not always be optimal. You may be moving, or you may stop to engage with the “wrong” leg back. That’s okay. Better to start shooting when you can rather than waiting to assume the “perfect” stance. But once you’ve started shooting, if it looks like this is going to be a more prolonged engagement, you might take a step forward (or back, depending on the situation) to get in that optimal stance.

Ninpo talked a little about ready positions, both the high ready and the low ready. One thing he noted is that people tend to tense up when searching for BGs. They crouch down, grip the gun very hard, try to maintain a hardcore shooting stance the entire time. If you’re doing a slow, methodical search and clear this way, you’ll wear yourself out clearing the first room. Keep the gun up, but hold it more loosely and stand upright rather than crouching down. When the time comes to shoot, then you drive the gun into your optimal shooting position.

After a break, we started talking about corners. The corner is the building block of CQB. Almost every problem can be described as a combination of one or more corners and the same basics principles apply to all of them. Roger and Ninpo broke out the whiteboard markers and diagrammed out how you do an angular search of a corner.

Ninpo emphasized that when talking a corner, your movement should be continuous. When you’re doing a deliberate search, it may be very veeery slow, but you shouldn’t come to a complete stop. Part of this is psychological. If you stop and lose momentum during CQB, it can be difficult to get yourself started again.

He also stressed that you should expect a potential target in every danger area. You should never just be going through the motions and looking (and pointing your gun) at a danger area not expecting a threat to be there.

The flip side of this is proper target identification, and it’s something that Ninpo really emphasized. Most of the folks in this class lived in jurisdictions that are pretty permissive when it comes to home defense, but just because you can legally shoot someone doesn’t mean you should.

In the home defense context, Ninpo divided up intruders into three categories: daytime burglars plying their trade, inebriated or mentally altered neighbors blundering into the wrong house, and those who invade a home not caring or even wanting to do so when someone is at home. Intruders in the first two categories usually don’t need to be shot, while those in the third category need to be shot as soon as possible. The hard part is distinguishing between them.

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We moved out into the office area, and Ninpo and Roger demonstrated how to take a corner using an L-shaped hallway as an example. The basics were familiar: a slow, deliberate angular search, exposing as little as possible, staying as far from the corner as terrain allows, to see as much as you can before you get to the decision point where you have to commit to taking the corner. Ninpo had a couple of refinements that were new to me: one was turning in the toe of your lead foot, to make it less likely that a stray toe will be the first thing to give you away.

If you see something, some sign of an adversary, you have to make a decision whether you’re going to proceed around this corner or pull back. This gets back to your mission. If you’re searching your home for the source of a suspicious noise and everyone you need to protect is someplace safe, once you verify that there is, in fact, an intruder, pulling back to a good defensive position and calling the police to come and deal with the intruder is a perfectly valid choice. On the flip side, if this intruder is between you and your loved ones, the need to push forward and deal with him is much greater. You have to ask yourself, “Is there anything in this room worth dying for?” Sometimes the answer is yes.

Ninpo really made a point of accelerating through the area of greatest danger (as you actually round the corner) then slowing back down once you’ve bought and paid for that danger space. This theme of shifting gears, slow-fast-slow, was one that would come up again and again throughout the class. Most folks didn’t have any trouble with the “slow-fast” transition. The transition from fast back to slow, on the other hand, did not always go so smoothly. Once you start going fast and you want to keep going fast. Roger or Ninpo calling for the student to, “Stand up. Relax.”, was a fixture after almost every drill.

Ninpo noted that slowing down after clearing the danger zone applies even if you encounter an adversary around that corner. In fact, it may be even more important. You don’t want to run right up into the guy. Slow down, even stop if necessary until you’ve dealt with the adversary. This is an area where this sort of movement is different from busting off the X. We’re moving to clear a dangerous area and get to where we need to be to fight most effectively. We may be shooting as we do this, but the goal is to get out of the danger area or get to our desired fighting position.

He also pointed out how, even in training, this sort of thing is very stressful (I can only imagine how stressful it is in combat). Stress is uncomfortable, and our natural reaction to uncomfortable situations is to get them over as fast as possible. That’s a big part of what keeps pushing us to go faster and faster.

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Roger and Ninpo talked about how to shoot during controlled movement. In contrast to dynamic movement where you adapt your shooting to your movement, this is all about adapting your movement to provide a good shooting platform. Lower your center of gravity, take smaller steps, and roll the feet from the heel to the toe (the classic “Groucho” walk).

Ninpo mentioned that in combat he did very little shooting from the support side. They did quite a bit of it during training (around 40% of their practice was from the support side), but it rarely came up in the type of fighting that they were doing. While he would switch sides if he was posting up on a “wrong handed” piece of cover or concealment, he would not swap shoulders when moving or pieing a corner.

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We split into two groups, with Roger taking half the students and Ninpo taking the other half. Everyone had a chance to work both right-handed and left-handed corners.

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It took a while for some students to get the hang of exposing as little of themselves as possible while they conducted their angular search. It’s very easy to let your elbow, shoulder, foot, or even your toe become visible to the adversary before your eye gets far enough around the corner to see him.

Next up we started working T-intersections. A T-intersection is just a pair of corners, and the same principles of working a corner apply. The complicating factor is that you need to work two corners simultaneously. Since we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads, that means picking one side of the T and working it while not exposing ourselves to the other side, then switching to the other side of the hall and taking a bite off of that side of the T. You alternate sides until you’ve seen everything you can see without exposing yourself to the other side of the T.

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When you get to that point, you have to pick a side and commit to it. If you haven’t seen an opponent yet, this is something of a guess. However, we can make it an educated guess. Based on the architecture of the building, which direction is the larger space? Based on the scenario, where would your adversary be coming from or where would they be hiding? If it’s still a coin flip, think about which direction you intend to continue your search in and make your initial movement in the opposite direction (this minimizes the number of times you’ll have to recross the stem of the T).

As with the L shaped hallway, you want to accelerate through the corner then slow down so you can see and engage any adversaries. If there’s no one there, immediately, turn 180 degrees and check for threats in the other direction as you cross the hallway that forms the stem of the T.

When doing that 180 turn, Ninpo demonstrated that it’s easier and more controllable to drop the gun down to Sul as you turn and bring it up when you’re facing in the new direction. Similarly, Roger demonstrated that with a handgun it’s most efficient to bring the gun into a compressed ready, turn, and drive the gun out (similar to count 4 of a 4-count drawstroke) once you’re facing the new direction.

Again, we broke into two groups and worked the T-intersections. The most common issues related to taking too big of a “bite” and exposing themselves to an area on the other side of the T that they hadn’t cleared. The thing you expose this way is most often the muzzle of your gun so it can be mitigated by retracting the gun in to some sort of retention position, or just by taking smaller bites.

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Ninpo mentioned that operating as an individual, he would prefer to fight out of rooms, using hallways only to move between them. This is because he can only look one direction at a time and once he’s cleared a room, he can direct that focus toward the doorway rather than dividing it among multiple areas of potential threat. As part of a team, he’d prefer to fight from the hallways, only entering rooms as necessary to clear them, because a team can cover multiple directions and lock down a big chunk of a building by covering the hallways.

We took a break for a (late) lunch. After everyone ate, we moved on to dealing with open doors. Again, a door is just a pair of corners, like a T-intersection. However, they’re a special case because the way you work a door is influenced by the geography of the room beyond, and it’s going to be a narrower opening for you to work (there’s also the fact that the door may be closed, but we weren’t even getting into closed doors yet).

Coming to an open door, you want to see as much as possible from the outside, so you do an angular search, the same way you would any corner. Some previous classes that I’ve taken emphasized doing a very complete angular search, up to a full 180 if the terrain allowed it, so you can see as much as possible of the room beyond. Ninpo’s take on this was that if you’re working a door off of a hallway, usually there’s a part of that hallway that you haven’t searched, from which an adversary may emerge. When doing his angular search, he doesn’t want to swing around far enough that he has his back to this unknown threat. The point at which he decides he’s seen all he can and needs to either make entry or back off may be dictated by when he can no longer keep the unsearched portion of the hallway in his peripheral vision. So the way you handle a door is dictated both by the geography of the interior of the room and the geography outside that room.

Once you’ve seen all you can see, you have to decide whether or not you’re going to enter. Again, Ninpo emphasized, “Is there anything in this room worthy dying for?”

As with any corner, you want to accelerate quickly through the corner itself, then slow down. A door is a bit different because the aperture is generally narrower (we were working in a commercial building with 36” doors, but many residential interior doors are going to be narrower: 30” or even 24”).

Once you’re through the door you want to move towards the area of greatest unknown danger; usually a corner of the room that would weren’t able to see during your angular search. The rooms that we were working with were all corner fed rooms (meaning the door was next to a corner of the room rather than being in the middle of the wall). In a corner fed room there’s usually only one corner that you couldn’t get a look at during your angular search.

Unfortunately, the width of the door may mean you can’t take the angle going through it that you’d really like without the risk of bouncing off the doorframe and throwing off your entry. If you need to radically change your angle of movement as you go through the door, Ninpo’s preferred solution is the doorjamb takeoff. You can plant your foot up against the doorjam and drive off that leg to change your direction of travel.

Sometimes you don’t need to change the angle your angle of travel that much, you just need to take a sharper angle than the door allows. Ninpo showed a nice technique for sidestepping through a door like this that gets you through a narrow opening quickly, without losing your momentum.

Ninpo noted that when clearing a room against a prepared defender, our only real advantage is that we’re the ones initiating the action. We get to choose when we go. While it may not come as a complete surprise to our opponent, they are at least reacting to us rather than the other way around. Since that split second of reaction time is our biggest advantage, it’s particularly important not to allow your muzzle to precede you into the room. If you’re using a pistol, retract it into a compressed ready or even come all the way back to Sul. With a rifle Ninpo showed the short stock technique: you rotate the rifle 90 degrees to lay it flat across your chest (much like going to Sul) while you retract the rifle, pulling the stock up above your shoulder. This allows you to get the rifle in very close to your body, yet mount it very quickly (and even start point shooting before you have it fully mounted if necessary). He mentioned that this is one of the ready positions he puts a lot of practice into mounting and shooting from when he’s at the range.

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We split up into two groups and worked some of these skills. In Roger’s group, one of the things we noticed was that when he was demonstrating, several times he switched hands or went one-handed despite his intent to stick with a strong side, two-handed grip in this class. It just goes to show how ingrained some of these skills can be.

Doing doors naturally segued into a bit of work clearing the room beyond. Ninpo talked a bit about clearing underneath or behind stuff like the office furniture we had in these rooms. He talked about what the priority would be and where he would look for a hidden opponent first.

As we were doing this a fellow from Tucson, who has taken many of Roger’s classes, dropped by. He couldn’t make the entire class, but he drove all the way up to Phoenix just to hang out with everyone for a little bit.

Moving on to closed doors, Ninpo talked about different approaches depending on your mission. If you’re doing a methodical search and clear and have plenty of time, the best approach is often to throw the door open (calibrating the amount of force you use so that it will stay open, which is an art in and of itself) and pull back rapidly. If the open door reveals a part of the room with an adversary in it, then you have to deal with that. If it doesn’t directly reveal an adversary, you wait, and wait, and wait. By opening the door, you’ve made your presence pretty obvious to anyone in the room. Again, if we’re the ones going in to seek out our opponent, our only real advantage is that we get to decide when to initiate the action. Give them time to get nervous, get distracted, let their guard down: five minutes, ten minutes, even longer. Then come through that door quickly and with no warning. The ability to choose when we initiate the action is a slim reed indeed, but we need to maximize that advantage any way we can.

Of course, in the training environment, we don’t want to spend five or ten minutes waiting in every drill, but we did pull back and build in a pause to simulate that wait.

The flip side is if your mission is to go rescue your loved ones or escape an active shooter you’re not going to sit there and wait for five or ten minutes. With time pressure like that you need to bust through that door the moment it opens and deal with what you find on the other side.

Entering rooms segued naturally into how you want to come out of a room when you’re ready to move back into the hallway. Even though we came down that hallway, we still need to check both directions since we’ve taken our eyes off of it. We can’t just assume that it’s safe. This means it’s basically a T- intersection. The way Ninpo advocated doing this was actually to leave the room opposite your intended direction of travel. If the next area you need to search is down the hall to the right, come out and quickly clear the left, then turn around to clear the right and continue in that direction.

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As we practiced this, again we noticed people moving faster and faster when they shouldn’t. They accelerated through the door then never slowed back down to as they continued clearing. Changing gears like this is very, very hard. When Roger asked about ways to practice this, Ninpo mentioned stuff like the transition between rapidly shooting a torso target and slowing down for a headshot, or doing a rifle to pistol transition at a distance where you have to shoot much slower with the pistol than you could with a rifle.

 Roger exiting a door.  I had my camera pointed in with my finger on the shutter release and he was still able to get out the door and get pointed in before I could "shoot".

Roger exiting a door.  I had my camera pointed in with my finger on the shutter release and he was still able to get out the door and get pointed in before I could "shoot".

Having gone about an hour past the scheduled end of class, Roger and Ninpo called it for the day. A few folks had to head straight home, but most of us headed over to a local restaurant for a nice dinner and some great fellowship with like-minded folks. Having been a while since I’d seen a lot of these people, it was a great opportunity to catch up with them.

Sunday

We convened again on Sunday morning. After disarming and switching over to our training guns, Roger and Ninpo asked for any questions about the material we’d covered the day before.

One of the questions was about flashlights, and Ninpo talked about his preference for very bright, high lumen tactical lights (especially rifle mounted lights). High lumen, in this case, being a minimum of 500 lumens, with 1000 or more being better. There are people out there who say this is too bright, but Ninpo thinks that used properly they’re very effective. This lead to the obvious follow-up, what’s the proper technique with a light that bright? So we all crowded into the restroom for a demonstration.

Ninpo showed how he would use a light to illuminate that space. Rather than hosing the area he’s interested in down with direct illumination, he relied on lots of indirect illumination, bouncing light off the floor, ceiling, walls, and (since this was a restroom) mirrors. This not only made good use of all those lumens, the shadows this creates can allow you to see around corners to a certain degree as well as helping conceal your position.

The restroom also had a small closet full of cleaning supplies which Ninpo took advantage of to show how he’d clear that sort of space. This lead to some discussion of the ready position he used to retract the rifle so he could reach the doorknob. He angled the muzzle up with the stock buried quite deeply underneath his armpit. As with the short stock position we discussed on Saturday, Ninpo mentioned this is another ready position he does a lot of practice shooting from.

Since the restrooms had self-closing doors, we moved on to practicing with those. They’re a real pain in the ass, but the principles are similar to any other door. Because you can’t open them and have them stay open, you have to fling them open then scan as much as you can as they swing shut. In this case, you’re not just looking for an adversary, you’re also trying to get the lay of the land of the room on the other side, so you can have a plan when you go through. As with opening a closed door, you wait (making maximum use of the advantage of initiating the action). After five or ten minutes you fling the door open and bust through, dealing with whatever you find on the other side.

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We broke up into the two groups and did some practice with the self-closing doors. Self-closers are definitely a real pain to deal with. Along with issues with the doors themselves, when coming back out, we continued to see students failing to slow down and relax after they cleared the door.

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When we were practicing room exits on Saturday, Roger noted that we generally weren’t including the quick peek in the opposite direction that Ninpo included when he came out of a room. He asked Ninpo to demonstrate this. Ninpo showed just a quick glance over his shoulder as he cleared the doorframe; not really enough to assess a potential threat, but enough to see if there’s something there that needs a more thorough assessment. If there is someone there, he’ll short circuit his check of the original direction, do a quick 180 and address the potential target he spotted to the rear.

All of our practice to this point had involved one obstacle at a time. We moved on to some practice clearing multiple rooms along a hallway in a row. If the rooms are widely separated, this isn’t much different from clearing a single room. However, if the doors are close together, the combination makes it a more complex problem. It forces you to divide your attention between the room you’re working and keeping an eye on the next room and limits how much of the first room you can get a look at during your angular search before you have to commit.

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Ninpo did some demos, and we spent some time searching multiple rooms, starting with all the doors open, the moving on to having all of the doors closed. With multiple rooms, having the doors closed can actually simplify things because it allows you to isolate one problem at a time. While we were doing the multiple room drills, we also practiced using the quick peek when coming out.

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Even more than clearing individual rooms, these drills highlighted people’s tendencies to get faster and faster as they searched. They started out at a nice slow, relaxed pace for the first room, then went a bit faster coming out of that room, even faster in the second room, and faster still coming out of the second room and heading to the third. “Slow down, relax.”

Since the rooms we were clearing were all offices, one thing that came up was how to search under a desk effectively. Ninpo noted that desk surface generally isn’t going to stop a bullet, so you don’t necessarily need to get the rifle clear of the desk. If you see (and positively identify) an adversary under a desk who needs to be shot, you can start lighting him up through the desk itself.

We took a break for lunch. While we were eating, there was some great discussion about related topics, like what you can do to your house to make it less likely to be selected by criminals and easier for you to fight in. Ninpo also had some good recommendations on books about the criminal mindset and psychology.

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Thus far all of the rooms we had been working were corner-fed (the door was near one corner of the room), primarily because in this building center-fed rooms were in much shorter supply. We did have one, however, and after lunch, Ninpo did some demonstrations of clearing a center-fed room. We then had the opportunity to try it for ourselves.

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Roger and Ninpo talked a bit about 2-man teams. Having more than one person makes many CQB problems much, much easier because you can address two danger areas simultaneously. This can be as simple as having a partner to keep an eye out to the rear as you move down a hallway up to being able to address both sides of a T-intersection or center-fed room simultaneously. Even when there’s only one threat, having multiple team members means that adversary has to deal with multiple problems while you and your teammate can fill him in twice as fast.

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While I’ve done some 2-man CQB before, Ninpo demonstrated a pair of techniques that were new to me: the skid and the slide. Both are ways for two guys to take a corner or door simultaneously, rather than sequentially. In the skid, the #1 man takes the inside of the corner and slows down for a moment to let the #2 guy step around him and take the outside. In the slide, the #1 man steps to the outside, opening up a space for the #2 man on the inside.

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Ninpo and Roger also demonstrated how to move down a hallway and clear a T-intersection with a 2-man team. We had a nice broad hallway to demo with so rather than stacking up they moved down it side by side, allowing them to get two guns on the threat. They also showed how one team member can serve as the tailgunner if you have a potential threat area to the rear.

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We had a chance to pair up and practice some of the 2-man team CQB. One of the things that came up repeatedly was a gap developing between teammates. Ninpo emphasized that in this context was continuous physical contact between teammates was critical. This could be a hand on the shoulder if the guy in front of you in the stack, moving shoulder to shoulder if you’re side by side, etc. It’s crucial because the sudden lack of that contact is a signal to the #1 man that he’s either going too fast or the #2 guy had to stop and address a potential threat.

Another student and I were practicing using the skid and slide techniques to get around an L-shaped corner. We had run the skid several times (where the #1 man cuts inside while the #2 goes wide) with me as the #2 man. When we swapped roles, I decided that we’d try out the slide (#1 man goes wide leaving a space for the #2 man on the inside). Ninpo had said that the #2 man should be able to pick up which technique the #1 guy is doing and accommodate, so I didn’t bother to discuss this change beforehand. In this case, the guy running the drill with me did not pick it up, and we both tried to go to the outside, which basically ended up with me body checking him into the wall.

Ninpo thought this was about the most hilarious thing he’d ever seen. He also decided that maybe we weren’t quite at the level where the #2 guy could just roll with it, so for the rest of the drill our SOP would be that if the #1 man went muzzle up, he was doing the slide and if he went muzzle down, it would be a skid.

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After everyone had a chance to do a few reps (which did not involve anyone getting slammed into the wall), we moved on to doing 2-man room entries. This is where the slide entry really comes into its own. It basically allows you to get two people into the room almost simultaneously even through a doorway too narrow for them to enter side by side. It has some real advantages over the traditional sequential entry.

Once you’re through the door, one guy goes one direction while the second guy goes the other way. The ability to cover two separate sectors like this makes room entries far easier with a two-man team than solo. Ninpo noted that experiences in Iraq have lead to a shift in how deeply to move into the room. Insurgents were sucking guys in deep then blowing up the room (or the entire building). The response has been not to penetrate as deeply into the room to make it easier to pull back if necessary. This doesn’t mean fighting from the door, but as a general rule, it means not getting more than halfway down the left and right side walls of the room, even with a 4-man team.

Everyone had a chance to practice a few 2-man room entries before Roger and Ninpo called an end to the class. Roger handed out the certificates, and we all packed up and reluctantly went our separate ways.

I headed over to a new hotel nearer the airport for Sunday night. On the way, I stopped at a nice local Italian restaurant for dinner. Monday morning I returned my rental car and headed to the airport for my flight back home.

Conclusions

This was a fantastic class. Ninpo is a veritable fountain of information about CQB, and I picked up more stuff from this class than I have in a long time. Roger let Ninpo take the starring role for this course, but I don’t want to sell him short either. He’s the one who really provided the overall structure to the class, and his excellent coaching skills really came to the fore when we broke up into groups to practice these skills.

While I’ve taken (and even taught) CQB classes before, as I’ve broadened my horizons and trained with a more diverse group of instructors my thinking on some of this stuff has evolved. This class has definitely contributed to that.

Probably the most significant change that this course has me contemplating is when (and why) to switch hands/shoulders during CQB. I’d been moving in the direction of not swapping sides as often after some training with other instructors. This course has accelerated that process; after seeing how Ninpo runs this stuff he has me converted most of the way over to his way of doing things.

The other big lesson from this class was the need to slow down and relax. This is something that came up again and again during class. Going too fast will get you killed. Trying to stay tensed up in a hardcore shooting position the whole way through a search and clear is going to wear you out very quickly. The ability to shift gears, slow down, and relax is as critical a skill for CQB as taking a corner or making a room entry.

The corollary to this, since you’re not going to be in a shooting position the entire time, is the need to practice going to a shooting position from ready positions: contact ready, compressed high ready, Sul, and short stock ready for a rifle; contact ready, compressed contact ready, high ready, and Sul for a pistol. Start relaxed in these positions and practice driving quickly into a proper shooting stance.

In addition to these larger points, this class also provided a ton of small refinements to my CQB technique. The aforementioned short stock ready position, the way Ninpo uses doorjamb takeoffs getting into (and out of) rooms, the sideslip room entry, the quick peek on exiting a room. Even tiny things like keeping the toe pointed in towards the apex of the corner so it’s less likely to be the first thing your adversary sees.

One that I did not get a chance to put into practice since I didn’t attend the live fire day was the torquing the hands inward as part of the handgun shooting grip. I need to make a trip to the range to try that out.

We also had a great group of students in this class. Many of them were folks I’d trained with before, but some were new to me. All of them asked good questions, did well practicing the skills we were learning, and served as good training partners in the 2-man team drills. They’re all great folks, and the class was a nice opportunity for fellowship with like-minded individuals.

I would highly recommend anything that Roger or Ninpo Student teach, and especially anything that they teach together. Particularly when it comes to CQB, Ninpo has a vast wealth of useful information, and I feel like this class only scratched the surface. I definitely hope that he and Roger continue to teach more classes along these lines.

Precision Long Range 1 with Match Grade Precision

Chris Upchurch

I recently had the chance to take the Precision Long Range 1 course from Match Grade Precision, taught by Matt Howard and Chris Long.

Gear

My impetus for taking this class was to test out a new optic on my .223 DMR. When I talked to the folks at Match Grade Precision before I registered they thought that a .223 would be a bit light for this class. I mentioned I also had a .300 Win Mag. Since I wanted to exercise the .223, they suggested using the .223 for the closer range stuff and the Win Mag for the longer range shooting on the second day.

The .223 AR that I brought is a JP Rifles 16” upper on a lower that I put together myself a couple of years ago. The new optic that I want to try out is a US Optics B-10 1.8-10x. Of course, I’m running my usual AAC Mini4 suppressor. I ran this gun with a different optic (a Leupold Mark 6 1-6x) in Eric Pfleger’s Longrifle class a few years ago.

The other change I’ve made since then is to switch from factory ammo to handloads. I’m still using the 77gr Sierra Match King bullet that I was running in the Fiocchi factory loads, but my handloads are a bit hotter (and perhaps more accurate).

The .300 Win Mag is a Savage 111. It’s more of a hunting rifle, but I took it out to 900 yards in the Longrifle class. It’s topped by a Leupold Mark 4 3.5-10x scope. I’m running handloaded Berger 230gr Hybrid Tactical OTM bullets.

There was one other student with a .223 AR, but that was the only other semi-auto. The rest of the class was running bolt guns, mostly in .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor, though there was also one .243 and one 6.5x47mm Lapua. Four of the bolt guns were Ruger Precision Rifles, which all of the students shooting them seemed to like pretty well. I had a chance to put a couple of rounds through one of them. It seemed quite nice.

I brought my Leupold Mark 4 spotting scope, which has a Horus mil-grid reticle in it. I’m running an Atlas bipod on the .223 and a Versapod on the Win Mag.

Friday

I headed out from Wichita around 4pm. After a stop in Salina for dinner and to stock up on some snacks I drove on to Spearpoint Ranch.

Several other students from the class were at the bunkhouse when I arrived. We sat around chatting for a bit, then joined the owner at a bonfire out back. Eventually racked out in the on-site accommodations.

Saturday

I rolled out of bed about 6am. The hot water was out, which made my morning shower kind of interesting.

 Sunrise from the Spearpoint Ranch bunkhouse.

Sunrise from the Spearpoint Ranch bunkhouse.

Matt Howard, the instructor, came by around 8am. He handed out waivers for us to sign as well as data books. Once the paperwork was taken care of we headed up to the range.

At the range Matt went through the medical and safety briefs and went over the outline of the class. After all the students introduced themselves, Matt talked about his background as a US Army sniper and competitive shooter. Chris Long (the other instructor) has lots of competition experience as well. We were also joined by Erica Brooks, who does marketing for Match Grade Precision.

Matt went through the data book that he had handed out earlier, talking about how to use each page, with particular attention to the zeroing, target, and round count log pages. He emphasized that he wanted us to use these throughout the class to log our shots. Not only is the data you gather in a logbook useful in and of itself, it can be helpful to take a break and settle yourself down between shots.

Chris brought out his Kestrel, and he and Matt talked a bit about the importance of atmospheric data (temperature, humidity, pressure, and density altitude). This was the Kestrel model with the built-in Applied Ballistics app, so they segued into talking a bit about using a ballistics app (Chris uses the AB Kestrel, Matt prefers Strelock Pro on a smartphone).

They talked through the fundamentals, starting with your shooting position and cheekweld. After coving natural point of aim, they worked their way up from there to breathing and trigger press. They also covered shooter- spotter communications and working as an effective team.

We started out our shooting by zeroing on paper at 100 yards. Our targets were 3/4 inch square pasters, but these were insufficiently precise for what we would be doing. Instead, Matt asked us to aim precisely for the corner of one of these squares. With the subtensions on my optic, I found this a little difficult, since the reticle covers enough of the paster that it’s hard to tell when I’m holding precisely on the corner (the crosshairs on my scope are 0.1 mil wide, so about half the width of the square). I did as well as I could. My rifle was pretty well zeroed to start with, so I just ended up making a slight tweak to elevation.

The range had a pretty interesting setup, with two large flatscreen TVs hanging from the roof over the firing line. Matt hooked these up to GoPros mounted to a pair of spotting scopes, allowing us to spot using the big TV screens rather than using spotting scopes. Unfortunately, the holes from the .223 I was shooting was just a bit too small to show up reliably on the TV screen. We ended up using my Leupold spotting scope instead.

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We moved on to the steel targets, starting at 300 yards. The range was set up with pairs of steel targets at every hundred yard mark from 300 to 1200. We had five teams of two students each (one shooting, one spotting) so with only two targets at each range, we weren’t all able to shoot the same distances at the same time. Most of the time we were able to keep out of each other’s way, as some teams moved out to longer distances faster than others. Out to 500, the steel targets were 10” square plates. Beyond 600 they switched over to 18” targets.

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We shot at each distance, starting with data from our ballistics programs and refining it based on real-world results. The winds were a bit tricky, varying in strength. If it were completely flat, it probably would have been a no-value wind (coming straight at us), but the rolling hills meant that the wind was doing different things at different distances. It could be blowing to the right at 300, straight in at 400, and to the left at 500. You just had to average it out or, more likely, take a shoot and see where it landed, then adjust from there.

Match Grade Precision provided a nice lunch on Saturday. It was very tasty, with pulled pork sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, and some great brownies.

As we moved out to future and further targets, I did pretty well. I didn’t have too much trouble getting hits out to the 800-yard mark. The B-10 scope dialed well and produced consistent results. At the farther distances, we had some issues spotting where my rifle was hitting. Those dinky little .223 bullets don’t always give real distinct impacts.

Once we got to the 900-yard mark things got a lot more difficult. At this distance, my bullets are starting to go subsonic. When that happens, the bullet can start wobbling and no longer flies straight. I was able to get some hits, but not consistently. In these conditions, at least, 800 yards seems to be about the effective range of this rifle.

One of the students shooting .308 with 168-grain ammo had similar trouble at 1000 yards. Everything worked well out to 900, but at 1000 the round started going subsonic, and everything went to hell. This gave me flashbacks to my first experience shooting a .308 at 1000 back in the Guerrilla Sniper class I took from Scott Vandiver in 2012, where I spent a couple boxes of ammo for four hits.

Having run out of range on the .223, I brought out the .300 Win Mag. I figured jumping straight to 900 yards would be a recipe for trouble, so I started back at 300 again. Getting hits with the Win Mag was even more straightforward than the .223, probably because even though the wind had gotten stronger the big 230 grain rounds I was shooting handled the wind so well. They’re also much easier to spot. Indeed, my shooting partner remarked on how much movement my bullets imparted to the steel plates at closer ranges.

I never got to see any of that movement, because this rifle is pretty much impossible to self-spot with. This is a fairly light bolt gun with a pencil profile barrel. It doesn’t weigh that much (something I was grateful for when I was carrying it for miles in Montana last year). However, the light weight and stout recoil from the big magnum cartridge knocks the gun completely off target when it goes off. I have to rely on my spotter to call shots and completely rebuild my position after each shot.

With the Win Mag, I was able to march out from one distance to the next in fairly short order. At each distance, the elevation adjustments from AB Mobile app were right on, and the big round bucked the wind so well that I either got first round hits or was on target with just a few shots. It’s amazing the difference a bigger, higher BC bullet can make, even if you do pay for it in recoil. I ended up getting out to 1000 yards with the Win Mag before we wrapped up for the day.

One thing I had to be careful about with the Win Mag was remaining aware of how many revolutions I had put on the elevation turret of the Leupold Mark 4. A complete turn of the turret is 5 mils. I was dialing over twice that at 1000 yards. Unlike my US Optics, this scope does not have a zero stop, so if you lose your place, there’s no simple way to keep track of how many revolutions you've rotated the turret from zero.

We packed up and headed back to the bunkhouse where Matt gave a lesson on his preferred method for cleaning your rifle. My barrel didn’t really need it (I’d punched the bore before coming to this class), but he wanted everyone to clean to demonstrate the change you can get in a cold bore shot with an unfouled barrel at the start of class tomorrow.

After cleaning our rifles (first the horse, then the saddle, last the man, as the cavalry used to say) a couple of us headed out to a local Pizza Hut for dinner. The food was exactly what you’d expect from Pizza Hut, but the company was good.

Back at the bunkhouse, the movie Shooter was on TV, which seemed appropriate. The hot water was back up and running, so I took advantage of a nice hot shower. Most folks turned in pretty early. Lying completely still and pressing gently with your finger can be surprisingly fatiguing when you’re trying to concentrate very hard on it.

Sunday

We mustered out at the range at 8am for our cold bore/clean bore shots. Most shooters found theirs was slightly high, which is what you would expect (a clean bore has less drag on the bullet). Mine was high and about 0.6 mils left. I was a bit surprised, but even more surprised when I dialed in a 0.6 mil correction and the point of impact didn’t move. When I was shooting at 900 the previous day, the windage knob had felt a little odd, but I dismissed it as the way the knob was rubbing on the brass catcher I was using. Clearly, it was slipping. I tightened down the screws on the knob (which were indeed a bit loose) and got it back on target.

After everyone did their cold bore shots, Matt talked about the end of class qualification. The qual was pretty simple, three shots on steel at 400, 500, 600, 700, and 800. Any time during the day we could call Chris over and shoot our three shots at one of these ranges, so you could get all dialed in, then make your three shots and he would record how many of them hit. All the qual really meant was whether you’d get a gold sticker or a silver sticker on your course certificate, but a desire to do well did provide a bit of pressure.

After explaining the qual, we were free to shoot steel, either to get dialed in for the qual or to collect more ballistic data (or both). In the beginning, there was some light fog that limited our ability to spot targets to about 700 yards, but that burned off as the day went on.

The wind also got stronger as the day went on and while it was more consistent in direction than yesterday, it varied a lot in strength. You could go from needing a full mil of wind hold to hardly any as the wind changed. When spotting, I sometimes found it necessary to back off on the magnification on my spotting scope to get a better view of the wind flags at intermediate distances.

My shooting partner and I got started with the qual by warming up at 300 yards. I could have probably thwarted the wind a bit better by using the .300 Win Mag, but I was in the class to exercise the .223, and it’s optic, so I stuck with that even though it would be a bit more challenging.

We shot each distance to verify elevation and try to get a sense of the wind, then called Chris over to shoot for score. Of course, by that time the wind might have changed so you couldn’t just dial the same wind hold you just used. In the end, I went three for three at 400 and 500. As the wind picked up, I dropped one shot each at 600, 700, and 800. Still, that was good enough for a gold star on my certificate.

Several times during the second day, Matt and Chris encouraged folks to try to spot their own shots through the optic and making adjustments off of that, rather than relying entirely on their spotter.

After finishing with the qual, I wasn’t interested in replaying the frustrating experience with my .223 at 900 again, but I did want to see if I could push the .300 Win Mag out beyond 1000 yards. Initially I was hitting way high. I realized that I had miscounted the revolutions on my scope turret and was a full 5 mils above where I had intended to be.

After I corrected that problem, I ended up going through about a dozen rounds and bracketing the target without getting any hits. At that point, I decided to call it quits. I could have let the barrel cool down and had another go and perhaps gotten a hit, but 1100 yards was pretty clearly beyond the angular accuracy of this rifle/shooter combination. Still, in this class, I’d been able to push it out to 1000, which was about 100 yards further than I’d managed before. Not bad for an off the rack Savage (albeit with tailored handholds and a good quality optic).

As we got to mid-afternoon, everyone had shot all that they wanted to shoot. Chris did a nice debrief about the class, asking everyone what they liked and what could be improved. This spurred some excellent discussion, including some teaching points on how to call corrections when spotting. Chris also talked a bit about the next level course that Match Grade Precision teaches: Precision Long Range 2.

They handed out the certificates, and everyone packed up and headed out. I grabbed some food in Salina and headed back to Wichita.

Conclusion

This was a great class. When it comes to long-distance shooting like this, I still consider myself towards the beginner end of the spectrum. I don’t have enough opportunities to shoot at longer distances, so a course like this is a great chance to exercise these skills.

As I mentioned, one of my big motivations for coming to this class was to test out some gear. The AR shot well, and I left this class confident that it’s more than accurate enough to use the full ballistic envelope of the .223 cartridge if I do my part. Once I got the wind call nailed down, it could place shots with almost boring consistency out to 800 yards. The performance at 900, on the other hand, indicated that 800 is pretty close for the hard limit for this cartridge (at least under these atmospheric conditions).

I’m pretty happy with the US Optics B-10 scope. The only real problem I had was the slipped windage turret that I discovered Sunday morning. I think this can probably be attributed to user error. Ever since I stripped out a turret set screw on a Leupold scope, I’ve been afraid to crank down on them too heavily. In this case, I think that came back to bite me. One of the reasons I like this optic is that setting the elevation turret doesn’t involve any tiny little set screws. I just wish they could do the same for the windage turret.

The one other issue I had with the windage turret is it wasn’t always easy to see exactly what I’d dialed. Part of this was the lighting conditions, shaded by the roof over the shooting line but strongly backlit by the brightly sunlit range. Part of it was the fact that unlike some other optics (including my Leupold) the reference marking is on the side of the scope body, rather than the “stem” of the turret. I’m not anticipating that this will be a big issue since I’d mostly hold for windage (Matt asked us to dial rather than hold in this class, though I ended up holding later in the course). The readings on the elevation turret were much easier to see.

As I mentioned, the reticle was a bit of an issue when we were shooting on paper. The crosshairs are 0.1 mils thick while the squares whose corners we were shooting at were about 0.2 mils, so I had to kind of judge when I was covering about a quarter of the width and height of the square. I don’t think I’d like the crosshairs to be any thinner (to maintain usability at 1.8x) but a small open space in the center would be nice.

While I was mostly interested in testing the B-10, a couple of my experiences with the Leupold Mark 4 on my .300 Win Mag actually ended up reinforcing the value of certain features on the B-10. Miscounting revolutions when I dialed in elevation for 1100 yards highlighted the importance of both the B-10’s zero stop and the fact that it does 10 mils per revolution of the elevation turret. If I’d had those features on the Win Mag’s optic, it would have saved me some trouble. I think features like this are going to be must-haves on my scope purchases going forward.

One of the hazards of coming to a class like this is you see all the cool gear that other folks in the class are using. It often ends up being hard on your wallet. The results some students were getting with the 6.5 Creedmoor (and the kissing cousin 6.5x47mm Lapua) have reinforced my plans to get a rifle In 6.5mm. In contrast with the hard range limits of the .223 and .308 as they went subsonic, the 6.5s could clearly reach out well beyond 1000 yards.

I was also intrigued by the fact that Matt and Chris did a lot of their spotting using tripod mounted 15x binoculars rather than spotting scopes. They were able to make calls out beyond 1000 yards using these (not to mention that they have the skills to do a better job of it than I was doing through a 40x spotting scope). The nice Leofoto tripods that they were using also caught my eye.

I have to say that the facilities at Spearpoint Ranch were just fantastic. From where we were shooting they’ve got steel set up out to a mile, and there are other shooting areas on the property that we never even got a look at. The bunkhouse provided nice on-site lodging.

As far as the class itself, I really enjoyed myself. In particular, I liked the fact that we actually used data books and logged every shot in this course. A data book has gone out of fashion as ballistic calculators have gotten better and more ubiquitous. Many of the longer range classes I’ve been to either don’t talk much about data books or mention them but don’t actually use them during the shooting portions of the course. This is the first class I where really feel like I’ve come away from with enough knowledge and experience using a data book to make an informed decision of whether or not to use one and to make good use of one if I decide to.

It should be noted that this is purely a marksmanship class. No stalking, observation, Kim’s games or other sniper type activities, just long range shooting. All of the shooting we did in this class was done at known distances from the bipod supported prone position (moving away from these is part of the curriculum in the LR2 course). I think this is a great class for working on the fundamentals of long-range marksmanship with as few other variables to contend with as possible.

This was a good class to test out my new optic. Even more so it would be a good class to get to know a new long range rifle. The ability to do some self-directed data gathering at whatever range your rifle will shoot to is hugely valuable, and having experienced instructors on hand to help you work through any issues with a new gun and/or optic is a significant benefit. Since I think I see a 6.5 Creedmoor in my future, I think I might want to come back and retake LR1.

I didn’t get the chance to take as many pictures as I sometimes do, but Erica took a ton of great photos and posted them on the Match Grade Precision Facebook page.

Matt and Chris did a great job teaching the class. They were very accommodating of different student’s skill levels, and I think everyone came out of this class more capable than when they came in. They’ve got a very laid back teaching style and did a great job responding to student questions.

If you’re looking to up your long-range shooting skills, I’d definitely recommend Match Grade Precision and their Long Range 1 class.